Days after submitting Arlington Park bid, Bears ink deal with Churchill's Rivers Casino

Days after submitting a bid to buy the Churchill Downs Inc.-owned Arlington Park, the Chicago Bears on Tuesday announced a new partnership with the company's Rivers Casino in Des Plaines.

The multiyear sponsorship deal was inked by the Chicago NFL franchise; Rivers, of which Churchill controls a 61% stake; and Rush Street Interactive, Inc., the online arm of magnate Neil Bluhm's Rush Street Gaming that jointly operates the casino.

"As a lifelong Bears fan, I am thrilled to have BetRivers and Rivers Casino partner with our hometown NFL team, the Chicago Bears, as the organization's only Official Sportsbook and Casino Partner," Bluhm, the executive chairman and co-founder of Rush Street Gaming and Rush Street Interactive, said in a statement. "We look forward to expanding our relationship with the Bears and their dedicated fan base, and offering innovative products and promotions as we remain committed to delivering a first-rate customer experience. This partnership also reinforces our commitment to hometown teams in states where we have our online and land-based sportsbooks."

No mention was made in the four-paragraph Tuesday morning news release of the Bears' announcement last Thursday that the organization put in a bid for the 326-acre racetrack property Churchill is selling in Arlington Heights. But revelations of the sports gambling partnership lend more fuel to long-held speculation that the team might relocate to Arlington Park.

And it shows that executives from the Bears and Churchill/Rush Street are already talking.

Bears officials wouldn't say Tuesday whether negotiations over a Rivers sponsorship deal began before, after, or were concurrent with discussions about the team's interest in Arlington Park.

"We are not providing further details other than this is our newest partnership in the casino and gaming category in accordance with the NFL Commercial Gambling Policy," a team spokeswoman said in an email. "There are no tie-ins to any other Bears programs."

A Churchill Downs spokesman didn't respond to a request for comment.

The deal expands the Bears' presence in the growing sportsbook and casino landscape, after an initial sports betting partnership with PointsBet late last year lasted only a few months. Sports wagering was legalized in Illinois two years ago.

"We are incredibly excited to announce BetRivers and Rivers Casino as our first multiyear exclusive partner in the Sportsbook and Casino categories," Bears President & CEO Ted Phillips said in the announcement. "We look forward to connecting with our fans in fun and unique ways through these avenues and couldn't be prouder to be building this relationship with a hometown company."

As part of the partnership, BetRivers and Rivers Casino will get in-stadium signage - for now, at Soldier Field - as well as digital, social media and print ads. betting app users also will see promotions for Bears prizes and experiences, and it will sponsor the team's Free to Play Game on the Chicago Bears app.

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Rivers Casino executive Neil Bluhm announced a partnership with the Chicago Bears Tuesday, days after the team put in a bid for the Arlington Park property owned by Churchill Downs, which holds a stake in the casino. Daily Herald File Photo, 2010
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